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How to make perfect (and easy!) Arabic Manakish

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Manakish مناقيش

Manakish (مناقيش) or cheese pizza as my three years old calls it, is one of the most famous delicious Middle Eastern breakfast foods.

I used to wonder why they call it manakish until I dug in the Arabic language a bit and found out that it's the plural of the word manqusha which roots from the verb naqasha (نقش) (to carve or to sculpt). That's why after we roll the dough we press gently with our fingertips to make the top easier for the toppings to stay in place.

I've tried tons of recipes for this beloved dough- from my family members to random ones off the Internet. But ever since having two daughters with barely a year a part, time has not been much of a friend to me anymore. And, let's get real, in today's world who has time to wait for the dough to rise for almost an hour depending on your room temperature? 

That all changed when a friend of mine introduced me to what's called the "10 minutes dough". I was suspicious of trying it for a long time until I was put on the spot and was asked to make manakish with very short time. So I put this recipe to the test and was mesmerized by the amazing results! To think of all that time I wasted waiting for dough to rise! The result was a fluffy soft dough that melts in your mouth similar to butter rolls but no butter included.

Since then, this recipe has been my one and only. When making manakish, I prefer whole wheat flour to sneak in some nutrition. If you've tried to bake whole wheat before, you'll know it will makes your dough hard and chewy, so after experimenting for while I found that Bobs Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour is just about perfect.

The famous manakish is topped with za'atar (زعتر) which is a mixture of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and sumac. But you can get creative and top it with what you like. White cheese is a must for my family, then we like to play around and mix za'atar with cheese.

It's best fresh out of the oven but the good thing about mankish is that they taste as good after it cools. You can serve it with labaneh (لبنة) which is yogurt, freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers, some pickled olives and of course the famous cup of tea. And VOILA! With that combination, you'll have your self a meal fit for royalty. 

Here's the low-down on how to make this easy and delicious Arabic food.

Tip: It's very important you mix the dough according to the directions

= Manakish =

Makes 8 (7 to 8 inch flatbreads)


For the dough

5 cups flour (you can use white, whole wheat or mixed)

2 cups warm water

1 TBs yeast

2 TBs sugar

Salt to taste

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Toppings

Za'atar mixture:

Za'atar

Olive oil

Cheese mixture:

White cheese

Tiny bit of butter

Sesame seeds

Black seeds

Put 2 cups of flour, 2 cups warm water (warm, but not hot), yeast and sugar in a blender and blend them until well mixed. Leave the mixture in the blender for 10 minutes (you will see the minute has doubled in size and reached the top of the blender).

Meanwhile get the toppings ready. For the toppings, mix the za'atar with the olive oil (I use equal amount but it should be according to what you prefer). As for the cheese, melt a bit of butter (less that a tbs) then add the cheese, sesame seeds and black seeds. Again, the amounts are up to you.

When you see that the dough has increased in size, and the 10 minutes have passed, pour the mixture into a big bowl then add the 3 cups of flour, salt and oil. Mix by a spoon first then by hand, you don't need to knead it as much as in other dough recipes, just until it doesn't stick to your hands (if it's still too sticky you can add a dash of flour just to gather it around). The dough should be soft- not too hard not too watery. In other words, it should be perfect :).

Cut the dough into 8 balls (those will be our manakish) then start working.

On a clean surface sprinkle some flour and pad one of the balls with your hands (you can use a dough roller) to make a circle then pad with your fingertips creating little dips for the topping to set on.

Baking

The traditional way of baking manakish is by heating the oven to 450 degrees then put the topped manakish in a big pan and bake it about 8 minutes. But that's a little bit tricky since bread likes hot ovens and its easier when they go in and out so it doesn't harden.

The other option is to have a frying pan on the stove on medium high (the pan can be nonstick or stainless both work) at the same time have your oven on broil (low) with a baking sheet placed closer to the top.

Once your dough is made into a circle, place it on the pan then spread your toppings. By the time your done the bottom of the bread will be golden brown and ready to transfer to the oven, check on it every few minutes and the top should be golden brown too when it's ready to serve.

I usually have the dough rolled and ready so by the time I put one bread in the oven, I'll have another one in the pan. This way is very fast and easy and gives you great results.

Serve right away or cool on a rack.

Sahtain صحتين


 

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